Stanford Sex Assault Survivor Opens Up on the Moment She Learned She'd Been Victimized
When Chanel Miller left the hospital, she still didn't know what had happened to her
When she left the hospital after being sexually assaulted while unconscious on Stanford University’s campus in 2015, Chanel Miller had no idea what had happened to her.
“I’d only been told that a guy had been acting ‘hinkey’ around me. Just ‘around’ [me],” Miller says in an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday, on the Oprah Winfrey Network, airing Sunday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. ET/PT.
“I thought, ‘Oh, there must have been an odd guy at the party who’d been setting off red flags.’ … I had no idea there was any direct relation to me, or that he had made any contact with my body.”
In reality, Miller, then 22, had been assaulted by Stanford freshman Brock Turner. Miller didn’t learn this until she went to work and read on the internet that a woman had been found half-naked.
At that point, Miller realized why she had debris in her hair, and the full horror that she’d been sexually assaulted dawned on her.
“And I immediately said, ‘That’s not me.’ I refused to accept that reality,” she says.
“And if I had a choice, I would have just said, ‘I don’t want it. No thank you.’”
But Miller persevered during the painful legal process that ultimately led to Turner’s 2016 conviction on three counts of felony sexual assault.
• To read an exclusive excerpt of Chanel Miller’s book Know My Name, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
Before he was sentenced, Miller confronted Turner with a powerful victim impact statement she’d written, which punctured Turner’s defense that he was drunk and also took aim at a society and justice system that stacks the deck against sex assault victims. The searing, 12-page statement — published under the pseudonym “Emily Doe,” — went viral, drawing praise as a critique of rape culture and later as a precursor to the #MeToo movement.
Prosecutors had asked that Turner serve six years behind bars, but the judge sentenced him to six months, and he wound up serving just three months. The lenient sentence drew widespread criticism and led to the recall of the judge. For Miller, it was devastating.
She has spent much of the intervening years writing her debut book, Know My Name, a memoir about the assault and its aftermath. An exclusive excerpt of the book appears in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. PEOPLE also has an exclusive video written and illustrated by Miller, which appears below.
Writing the book allowed Miller, now 25, to reclaim the sense of self that had been stolen by Turner. Earlier in September, she publicly revealed her name and face.
Miller tells PEOPLE, “While writing Know My Name, I was constantly drawing as a way of letting my mind breathe, reminding myself that life is playful and imaginative. We all deserve a chance to define ourselves, shape our identities, and tell our stories. The film crew that worked on this piece was almost all women. Feeling their support and creating together was immensely healing. We should all be creating space for survivors to speak their truths and express themselves freely. When society nourishes instead of blames, books are written, art is made, and the world is a little better for it.”
Chanel Miller’s Super Soul Sunday episode airs Sunday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. ET/PT.